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Pages of Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)



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Odyssey (Rapsodies 19 to 24)   


a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade
straight by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and
everyone was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though
he had never seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on
to the pavement to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it,
trying with all his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to
leave off, though he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the
iron. He was trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it
had not Ulysses made a sign to check him in spite of all his
eagerness. So he said:
"Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am
too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be
able to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore,
who are stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest
settled."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door
[that led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of
the bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and
Antinous said:
"Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the
place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the
wine."
The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise. He
was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near
the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and
was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow
and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he
could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard
work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,
"My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall
take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is
better to die than to live after having missed the prize that we
have so long striven for, and which has brought us so long together.
Some one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry
Penelope, but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo
and make bridal offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope
marry whoever makes her the best offer and whose lot it is to win
her."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door,
with the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his
seat again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked
him saying:
"Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and
intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this bow
take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot bend
it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there are
others who will soon string it."
Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, "Look sharp, light a fire
in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring us
also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let us
warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again, and
bring the contest to an end."
Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins
beside it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had
in the house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of
it, but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it.
Nevertheless there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
the ringleaders among the suitors and much the foremost among them
all.
Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and
Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the
outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:
"Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I am
in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What

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